All eyes were on Instagram last month as it delivered its version of a one-two punch to rivals YouTube and Snapchat. First, the Facebook-owned social media platform announced that its active monthly user base had broken the one billion mark, and then it announced the launch of IGTV,a long-form video hub and app that would soon be rolling out vertical, full-screen video of up to an hour in length. Up until now, Instagram has limited the length of videos to 1 minute or less.
The move positions Instagram to better compete with YouTube’s more extensive video lengths and Snapchat’s smartphone-friendly vertical format while responding to the explosive demand among consumers and advertisers for mobile video. And while it’s too soon to tell how the hub will fare in the long run, here are a few ways advertisers expect to capitalize on the offering in the near term.
Engagement Now and Monetization Later
While Instagram is not selling ads just yet, it’s in the future, according to CEO Kevin Systrom. “That is obviously a very reasonable place to end up,” Systrom said at the June launch event in San Francisco. “And if we end up in that place, which we think we will, there will obviously be a way for creators to make a living.” Given the longer length of IGTV video, advertising could take the form of 15- or 30-second pre-roll ads or mid-break commercials, with creators earning a revenue share.
In the meantime, brands can drive awareness and engagement by posting their own video content and including link-out options to push traffic to websites and ecommerce stores. According to Digiday, early adopters like Chipotle and Nike are getting as good traction on the new platform as they have been earning on other Instagram channels. “When your customers are thoughtfully seeking and opting into a more in-depth viewing experience, there’s a stronger chance that your brand’s message will be received with welcome captivation,” Kinzi Sparks, lead for paid social at iProspect, theorized about brands’ IGTV ad experiences.
But the audience engagement the Chipotles and Nikes are getting is a result of more than just the seek-and-accept status to which Sparks attributes customer enthusiasm. Unique content, tailored not just to long-form vertical (which enhances viewability on mobile devices—an increasingly important factor in today’s mobile-driven environment) but also to Instagram particularities, are also big factors in earning audience buy-in. IGTV may have TV in its name, but stylized, highly polished TV-style ads are not what’s gaining attention from the Instagram audience, according to Tressie Lieberman, executive director of customer engagement marketing at Chipotle. “Social is definitely not one-size-fits-all,” she says, and advocates that brands tailor their content according to both format and taste. “It’s a different format, so we want to make sure we are designing specifically for long-form and vertical content.”
The launch of IGTV comes at a time when ad spending across top YouTube channels is flattening out as a result of recent brand safety controversies according to MediaRadar CEO Todd Krizelman. As a result, some industry observers believe IGTV offers a safe haven for brands concerned about advertising against inappropriate content and has the opportunity to capture some of the ad dollars going to YouTube. Instagram maintains its channel will be insulated from the issues that have affected YouTube, but, by being an open platform, it may only be a matter of time before Instagram faces the same brand safety issues as YouTube.
It’s too soon to know if IGTV will help its parent company compete against Google’s YouTube and Snap’s Snapchat, or if the platform will deliver on its promises to advertisers. With 1 billion passionately engaged users, however, it’s one advertisers should be evaluating seriously.